College of Environmental Science and Engineering, Ocean University of China, Qingdao, 266100, PR China; Key Laboratory of Marine Environment and Ecology, Ministry of Education, Ocean University of China, Qingdao, 266100, PR China. Electronic address: [Email]
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and nitrated polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (NPAHs) are pollutants commonly present in the environment. Some NPAHs are considered to have more severe toxic effects than their parent PAHs. The existence of 16 PAHs (678.5-3817.8 ng/L in wastewater, 499.9 ng/g-1239.6 ng/g in sludge) and 5 NPAHs (175.8-1392.4 ng/L in wastewater, 483.5 ng/g-2763.1 ng/g in sludge) was determined in a biological wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) in Qingdao, China. Anthracene and naphthalene were the predominant PAHs, and 2-nitrofluorene and 9-nitroanthracene were the predominant NPAHs. Petroleum, liquid fossil fuel combustion and exhaust emissions were the main sources of PAHs and NPAHs in this study. In both the sequencing batch reactor/moving-bed biofilm (SBR/MBBR) and the anaerobic-anoxic-aerobic (A2O) process, low-molecular-weight PAHs were mainly removed through volatilization and biodegradation/biotransformation. Meanwhile, the removal of high-molecular-weight PAHs and NPAHs depended on adsorption and sedimentation. The transformation from PAHs to NPAHs mainly occurred in the aqueous-phase, especially in summer and that was confirmed by mass flow and ratios variation. Overall, the removal capacity of the A2O process for PAHs and NPAHs was better than that of the SBR/MBBR process. Tertiary treatment processes had little effect or even a negative effect on the removal of PAHs and NPAHs.